PTBNL in Dodgers deal could be in Sox first base platoon


PTBNL in Dodgers deal could be in Sox first base platoon

The Red Sox have publicly identified first base, left field, and right field (along with starting pitching and shortstop) as areas of need. The offseason will be devoted to filling those spots, along with several other roster vacancies.
Free agents Mike Napoli or Adam LaRoche could be the answer at first. In the outfield, the Sox could bring back Cody Ross, or try to lure Torii Hunter or Nick Swisher, or maybe Jason Bay again. Or perhaps Swisher could be the answer at first.
Perhaps the answer to one or more of those questions is already in the organization. General manager Ben Cherington said at last weeks GM meetings that Jerry Sands could be a platoon option at first base.

Sands was part of the blockbuster trade with the Dodgers in August, although, as a player to be named later, the Sox did not acquire him until Oct. 4. He was then added to the 40-man roster.
Sands, who turned 25 in September, was a 25th-round pick of the Dodgers in 2008 out of Catawba College in North Carolina. He made his big league debut last season, appearing in 61 games. This season he appeared in nine games for the Dodgers.  He has appeared in 47 games in left field, 23 in right, seven at first base, and one in center field for the Dodgers all without making an error.
The right-handed batter  has hit a combined .244 with four home runs, 27 RBI, a .325 on-base percentage, and .376 slugging percentage in the big leagues.
Listed at 6-feet, 4-four inches, and 225 pounds, Sands runs relatively well for a big guy. He is 3-for-6 in major league stolen base attempts, all in 2011. In the minors, he has 28 stolen bases, getting caught just four times.  In 2010, he was 18-for-20. Last season, though, he was successful in his lone attempt.

Over five minor league seasons, he has hit .289 with a .376 OBP and .562 SLG, playing all three outfield positions, first base, and third base. He has appeared in more games, 173, at first base than any other position. But over the last two seasons -- both at Triple-A - he has appeared in 94 games in left, 89 at first, 52 in right, and one at third base.

In 119 games with Triple-A Albuquerque this season, he hit  .296 with 26 home runs, 107 RBI, .375 OBP, and .524 SLG. In 2012, he played 60 games in left, making one error for a .992 fielding percentage, with 11 assists, 44 games at first base (seven errors, .983 fielding percentage), and 24 errorless games in right field.

His versatility is certainly attractive to the Red Sox. But, what is his best position and what can he offer the Sox offensively? Several scouts weighed in:

I like his power but contact issues are a concern, said one scout. His walks are up, which is a positive. Played a solid left but limited to left fieldright field . He can also play first base, but much better in left field. I was a little higher on his D than most but he is an average defender at best. Runs well for a big man but not a threat. I had him as an extrafourth outfielder  type. Those power numbers in Albuquerque are a little exaggerated due to the light air but he has 20-plus home run power. I do not think he will ever hit for much of an average -- .240 - .250 type.

Sands has been brought up and given a little chance, said another scout at the time of the trade. He always did well in the minor leagues, but never produced. He never impressed the Dodgers enough to keep him in the big leagues.

Hes a big power-type guy. Thats a big part of his game, said a third scout. I think eventually hes going to be OK.  I know the Dodgers had some situations with him where if he doesnt hit, he wants to start changing things, and they were trying to be patient with him doing that. But I think hes going to get everything straightened out, and hes going to be a pretty good offensive-type guy. Hes a playable defensive guy. Hes one of those guys, if he hits and hits for power, his defense is going to be good enough. Hes more of a fringe defender in the outfield. But if he hits 40 home runs, then hes a very good outfielder. I think hes got some promise to him.

Blakely: Game 4 loss shows just how much Celtics miss Isaiah

Blakely: Game 4 loss shows just how much Celtics miss Isaiah

CLEVELAND --  Down the stretch in Game 4, the Celtics were desperate for someone, anyone, who could slow down Kyrie Irving.
But short of that, Boston could have used an offensive closer, too. You know, someone like Isaiah Thomas.



The Celtics have relied on the two-time All-Star to carry much of the offensive burden this season, but he was almost always at his best in the fourth quarter.
A right hip injury knocked him out of this series after 1 1/2 games. Still, Boston managed to win Game 3 without him and, for large chunks of Tuesday night, seemed poised to beat the Cavs again on their home floor.
But as much as Game 4 was a reminder of just how special a talent Irving is (42 points, 21 in the third quarter when the game’s momentum swung in Cleveland's favor), it also provided a clue to the clueless who thought the Celtics were actually better without Isaiah Thomas.
It’s no secret that teams go to great lengths to try and use his 5-foot-9 stature against him. And as we have seen, the deeper we get into the postseason the more trouble he and the Celtics seem to encounter from a defensive standpoint.
But just as we praise Irving for being such a special talent, Thomas has shown that he, too, has offensive gifts that, throughout this season, have left many fans, media and defenders befuddled as to how “the little fella” keeps coming up with one big play, one big shot after another.
But as we have learned, he has been dealing with a sore right hip injury for several weeks. The pain and discomfort eventually became too much to bear and so the Celtics did the right thing and shut him down.
Without him, the C's are still a good team that on any given night can knock off anyone, even the defending champs.
But as Game 4 reminded us, they need Thomas in order to be their best.
When Irving torched Boston’s entire defense with jumpers, ankle-breaking crossovers, Euro-step lay-ups and free throws, the Celtics had no one to turn to who could maybe, just maybe, go back at Irving at the other end of the floor.
That's what Thomas does that makes him such a special, unique talent in this league.
He can score in a variety of ways, with the best in the NBA.
We saw that this past season, when he led all players in the Eastern Conference in scoring with a 28.9 points-per-game average.
Boston’s excellent ball movement and high assist numbers are certainly important to the team’s success. But to make a deep and meaningful playoff run, you need one or two guys who can just go get buckets regardless of what the opponent does defensively.
That’s not Avery Bradley.
That’s not Al Horford.
That’s not Kelly Olynyk.
You can search, poke and prod this roster all you want, and you'll come up empty when it comes to finding a player like that . . . other than Isaiah Thomas.
The fact the Celtics were able to avoid getting swept is a victory of sorts in itself. Boston’s coaching staff, as well as the front office, has repeatedly said that as talented as their team is, they aren’t on the same level of the defending champion Cavaliers.
And yet here we are four games into this series and the Celtics are basically a bad half of basketball away from being tied, 2-2.
It says a lot about their mental toughness, their ability to handle and navigate past adversity to give themselves a chance to be competitive against any team -- including the Cavs.
But their success this season has always been about the collective group, regardless of how many late-game shots Isaiah Thomas knocks down.
And while he has his shortcomings defensively, not having him available is going to hurt them in those late-game moments when they need a closer. It’s not a coincidence the Celtics were just 2-4 when he didn’t play during the regular season.
So as cool as it was for them to win Game 3 without Thomas, he’s still the straw that stirs the Celtics emotionally, bringing them to levels few think they're capable of reaching.
They were able to get by for one night without him, but remember this: It took Marcus Smart having an Isaiah Thomas-like game of 27 points and seven made 3’s, for them to win.
No one did anything remotely close to that Tuesday night.
They looked like the Isaiah Thomas-less Celtics, which is a look they don’t need this time of year.
Because that look is so not about winning.